Multi-communicating vs. Ma Bell

Image of Porpida porpida, a 1-inch jellyfishAs a communicator, I often try to design campaigns to reach as many people in as many ways as possible. For example, to get environmental tips out to folks for Earth Day last year, we used Web pages, podcasts, home page banners, and daily email subscriptions (here’s the presentation I ‘ve been doing on that effort). Hopefully we reach more people, and the message is amplified for anyone who might hear it through more than one channel.

But at a personal level, I’m finding myself flummoxed by too many options for how to contact someone I know. Especially since I’ve been getting into several social networking sites recently. When I want to send a message to someone, I have to choose among:

  • GovLoop (message? wall post?)
  • Twitter (direct message? @reply?)
  • Facebook (message? wall post? live chat?)
  • LinkedIn
  • Email
  • Phone (gasp! Yes, i still like prefer discussing complex topics on the phone)

And people keep inviting me to even more networks, like an internal one EPA set up for a conference.

That’s not even counting the multitude of ways to contact someone using a Blackberry (email, SMS, BB Messenger, PIN, phone). At least with that, though, I use email 99.9% of the time and phone the rest.

And now gmail incorporates live chat. And, heaven help me, I’ve discovered Skype video, as if having iChat wasn’t enough.

*Jeffrey steps ouside, looks up at the stars, takes three deep breaths, admires the quiet of the night, and comes back inside*

Remember Ma Bell, who lovingly held you to her ample bosom and slapped away all offers of other ways to communicate? Sure, she was an overprotective, vengeful woman, but at least I never had to choose a calling plan. Or an online tool.

For example, the four of us organizing Gov’t 2.0 Camp (you ARE coming, right?) are all on email, the phone, Facebook, and Twitter. Which to use? I feel like I have to check all of them constantly. To his credit, Peter Corbett has tried to corral us into single collaboration tool, but I haven’t found the time to learn how to use it. So I default to email, but sometimes it’s Facebook, esp. if there’s a time-sensitive issue, so I can try to grab someone in chat (Peter, I can imagine you banging your head on your desk at this point).

I don’t have any grand scheme; I tend to use whatever I happen to be using at the moment the idea pops into my head, with email as the default. And I don’t really use every tool regularly. But Facebook, email, and Twitter are a regular part of my day now, and GovLoop’s getting there (if you try to join my LinkedIn network, you might wait a month to hear from me).

But I’m starting to have problems. Last week, I left a comment on a GovLoop blog inviting someone to write me an email. When she did today, I had no idea what she was talking about until I asked her to send me the URL of the original exchange.

What do YOU use?

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Adriel Hampton

I do find that I can easily lose context of a discussion in social media if it’s not clear from the response.
That’s a big challenge. And also, for an official event like Earth Day, what is EPA’s policy on records? It seems it would get really complicated if the content is all over. But of course, we need to be reaching out across all these channels!
Personally, I’ve almost given up the phone. I text with loved ones. I Twitter, I post blog updates to multiple-channels, I do traditional and Facebook and LinkedIn e-mail. However, I do advise people when they are flooding me. Gotta do it.
I enhance online relationships with Skype or, second, phone calls.
It takes time – that’s why you can’t just give someone a handout and tell them to do social media.

Sarah Bourne

Although we originally used the phrase in the context of our portal’s information architecture, it’s now popping up in distribution channel discussions: No wrong door. It’s much easier (really!) for us to deduce where our audiences go for information than for them to guess where we’ve put it.

Jeffrey Levy

Oooh, I like that, Sarah! I completely agree for an organization. In fact, that was one of the recommendations in the Federal Web Managers Council white paper: the public should get the same answer regardless of where they ask it. It’s the personal comms that are throwing me for a loop.

Adriel: all that text is good, and I’ve had my share of friendships develop through such means. But to me, there’s still nothing like sitting at lunch or sharing a beer.

Jeffrey Levy

Sarah: agreed. But my post wasn’t about helping people find gov’t info. Rather, I’m talking about me communicating: trying to stay in touch with everyone, both professionally and personally, and being overwhelmed with options.

I’ll edit it to make that clearer.